Are Good Citizens Also Good Transformational Leaders?

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9320914837_eab120a4f3_z[We’re pleased to welcome Sophia V. Marinova of University of Alabama in Huntsville. Sophia published an article with co-authors Linn Van Dyne and Henry Moon in the February 2015 issue of Group & Organization Management entitled “Are Good Citizens Good Transformational Leaders as Well? An Employee-Centric Perspective on Transformational Leadership.”]

Leadership is viewed as the sine qua non of organizational behavior because leaders are extolled or blamed for organizational successes and failures. Conforming to a traditional top-down view of organizations, when we discuss leadership both in academic as well as in practitioner terms, we tend to think of leaders as those individuals who are already in formal managerial positions in organizations.  However, in the context of organizational empowerment, employees from all levels of the organization can be viewed as critical to effective leading in the workplace. In other words, employees have opportunities to serve as leaders from the bottom up in increasingly flatter organizational designs.

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Thus, the inspiration behind our research is to investigate how types of prominent employee organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), which reflect employee engagement, lead to perceptions of employee leadership capabilities. We draw on self-sacrifice and evolutionary notions of costly cooperative behaviors to offer OCB as an avenue for being recognized by others in work groups as leader-like. We examine four types of OCB- taking charge, helping, compliance and sportsmanship. In terms of leadership, we focus on transformational leadership because of its importance to contemporary organizations as reflected in four different dimensions- role modeling, intellectual stimulation, interpersonal consideration, and fostering goal acceptance.

We conduct our study with a diverse sample of professional employees employed in a variety of organizations in different industries. Relying on data obtained from over 1000 coworkers, supervisors, and focal employees, we analyze the relationship between the extent to which a focal employee engages in various citizenship behaviors as rated by their coworkers and perceptions of the focal employee’s transformational leadership as rated by the employee’s supervisor (while controlling for potential confounding variables for stronger inference).

We find support for the notion that good citizens emerge as good leaders as well. Specifically, different citizenship behaviors lead to perceptions of transformational leadership and sometimes have opposite relationships to different types of transformational leadership. For example, although seemingly mundane, an employee who helps others emerges as a positive role model for other employees and as someone who shows interpersonal consideration, both important aspects of transformational leadership. We thus demonstrate that engaged employees who display OCB enhance transformational leadership in organizations from the bottom up.

Overall, our theory and findings call attention to employees as active participants in the leadership process, a non-traditional view that calls for far more attention to leadership in organizations from the bottom up rather than solely from the top down. From a practical perspective, leaders in organizations may be well-advised to focus on how to encourage their employees to engage in OCB, not only for the benefit of a more engaged workforce, but also to cultivate the leadership capabilities of their workforce.

The abstract for the article:

Research has demonstrated robust positive relationships between transformational leadership and employee attitudes and behaviors. To date, the preponderance of the literature has been leader-centric and focused on individuals who are already in leader roles. In this article, we adopt an employee-centric perspective and focus on behaviors of professionals who are not in formal leader roles. Specifically, we apply evolutionary theory as a theoretical lens for proposing that those who perform organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) will be seen as transformational leaders. We hypothesize linkages between four types of OCBs and four dimensions of transformational leadership. Multi-source field sample results based on more than 1,000 participants provide general support for the predictions. We discuss theoretical and practical implications.

You can read the article, “Are Good Citizens Good Transformational Leaders as Well? An Employee-Centric Perspective on Transformational Leadership,” from Group & Organization Management free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research published by Group & Organization ManagementClick here to sign up for e-alerts, and click here to follow the journal on Twitter!

*Discussion image attributed to Cydcor (CC)

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